In the eighth article of Inside Ecology’s Careers Series, Lisa Barlow talks about her role as Project Officer for the Severn Rivers Trust…
How did you get to where you are today?
I studied BSc Countryside and Environment Management at Harper Adams, with a placement year with the Field Studies Council as an Educational Assistant. I was involved with BTCV as a Millennium Volunteer, leading conservation holidays and with Shropshire Wildlife Trust as a nature reserve volunteer. Since then, I have worked for Groundwork, BTCV (now TCV) and the Wildlife Trust before beginning my current post at Severn Rivers Trust in 2013. In 2012, I completed a part time MSc course with Birmingham University in Biological Recording: Collection and Management.
What does your job comprise?
As a project officer, my role is varied. I am responsible for leading volunteer work parties – including managing contracts for corporate volunteering and all health and safety requirements; an educational programme for schools and for adult learners (for example Riverfly Partnership training), public events and awareness raising, fundraising for future projects and match funding for current projects, project administration, support for community groups and liaison with landowners and statutory bodies e.g. for flood risk consent for weir removal works or for permission from Natural Resources Wales for in-stream works, managing partnerships with a range of other organisations.
Are there any ‘must-have’ qualifications and/or experience?
Many similar jobs ask for a degree in Biology or related discipline. It is also expected that a project officer has experience of practical conservation work and the associated safety management and also some knowledge of taxonomy. Proving an ability to work in partnership and to manage networks with a variety of businesses, organisations, volunteers and individuals is becoming more important in my line of work.
What are the pro’s?
The great thing about working for a conservation charity is the relationship we have with communities and landowners. We are able to be flexible in our approach, which enables us to deliver some exciting projects. For example, in 2015 and 2016 we delivered a Leaping Lights Salmon festival in partnership with Oriel Davies Art Gallery, which attracted 1,500 members of the public. This art-environment work is great for engaging people and personally, I really enjoy it.
What are the cons?
Short term contracts are common in charity work, which is great for freedom at the beginning of a career, but becomes more challenging later for those with other commitments outside of work. Being good at seeking ongoing funding for projects becomes a very important aspect of the work.
What advice would you give to someone setting out on a similar career path?
I would advise anyone thinking of this career path, that it is very rewarding and well worth the hard work, but be prepared to work hard, volunteer and build up networks with as many organisations in the field as possible. Get the basic requirements for jobs outdoors such as a clean driving licence, field ID skills and practical habitat work, particularly in the field you wish to work in. Be helpful and proactive and help with funding applications – it may even be possible to bring in some money for an entry level role.
About the Author: Lisa Barlow is Project Officer for the Severn Rivers Trust. Lisa loves making conservation accessible to all and thinking of creative ways to get people to understand and enjoy nature. She particularly enjoy working with communities, thinking of low-cost sustainable solutions to ensure that work continues long after the project.